C-suite executives now expect corporate legal teams to be a driving force for business value along with focusing on legal matters. Leadership is asking corporate legal departments (CLDs) and their legal operations professionals to provide key performance indicators, become more cost-effective, and deliver better value – just like any other part of the organization.
Many corporate attorneys find themselves in unfamiliar territory: the management table. In this newfound position, they must be able to demonstrate true business value and proven outcomes.
This has given rise to the legal operations function. Today, CLDs are run more like typical corporate departments. As such, corporate legal teams are tasked with optimizing their services and attaining greater efficiencies that benefit their organizations. Let’s look at three strategies that can help them achieve these objectives.
Use the right technology
Technology will be an important factor in CLDs’ evolution from cost centers to value centers. As I wrote in a previous blog, enterprise software is finally beginning to marry sheer power with user-friendly attributes. Legal operations professionals must choose their solutions carefully.
Easy-to-navigate dashboards, accessibility, and the ability to configure workflows for individual users are all important. They drive user adoption and promote greater efficiencies, which can save legal operations professionals and attorneys time and enable them to focus on work that will provide greater benefits to their business.
Artificial intelligence solutions should also be considered. No longer the purview of science fiction movies, the hype surrounding AI within the legal operations software space is real.
As my colleague, Linda Hovanec, discussed at CLOC Institute 2018, the true benefits of AI are still being debated, and I would agree, though I think it will prove highly beneficial in certain instances. CLDs with very large data sets and highly repeatable sets of actions they use that data for, like eBilling, can greatly benefit from AI today. CLDs and law firms will benefit from AI in other ways, too, such as with expedited contract development and more efficient management. Far from replacing actual attorneys, AI success will rely on humans to monitor and train the systems to continually provide organizations with valuable insights.
Put data to good use
Those insights can be derived from the massive amount of data being collected, but raw data pertaining to billing rates, case histories, and other aspects of legal matters is only truly useful if it is actionable. A system that only allows for data input, as opposed to both input and extraction, will not offer the type of actionable intelligence that CLDs need to make better business decisions.
Corporate legal teams must be able to extract information in context, so they can deliver informed choices and recommendations to leadership. Dashboards that provide at-a-glance metrics, including actual performance in relation to goals and industry benchmarks, can be extraordinarily powerful tools. They can help managers quickly ascertain areas for improvement while arming them with the information they need to provide the best possible recommendations.
Ideally, this information should be integrated into users’ workflows, so they can make on-the-spot decisions using a combination of peer data and historical data. Fortunately, it is now possible to incorporate this information into the tools that corporate legal professionals use to get their work done on a daily basis.
For instance, when benchmark information is displayed in dashboards that compare the industry data to their own data, legal operations professionals can delineate how much a certain matter should cost at the time a decision is needed. They will also have the information to help choose the right firms to work with, knowing when to negotiate different approaches, and more. They will be able to choose the right resources, for the right work, at the right cost.
The ability to provide users with deep, insightful knowledge is the next frontier of corporate legal operations. This is where the real power lies. Armed with that knowledge, users will be able to make more informed choices that benefit their corporations.
Choose partners that support the CLD’s long-term mission
Since technology will play a crucial role in CLDs’ transformations, choosing the correct technology partners is vitally important. It is not only about finding the right price point. Teams will want to explore vendors with a history of innovation, vision, and a commitment to long-term customer support.
CLDs should refrain from transactional relationships and instead choose partners that are committed to investing in their solutions for years to come. This goes well beyond simple updates and patches. As we have seen, CLDs' needs are rapidly evolving, and they need to work with vendors who are willing to change along with them. A commitment to continuous iteration and innovation is essential.
There is no perfect product, and organizations will always be faced with the reality that the products they wish they could have may not necessarily be products that actually exist. There is no perfect product that will meet every unique need for each organization. The best vendors provide solutions that can be easily configured or a suite of solutions that work together to fulfill a specific requirement.
As CLDs continue to play a more prominent role in the health and future of their organizations, they will need to find a balance between improving corporate outcomes and reducing expenses. That will require an enormous amount of operational rigor and a focus on combining people, processes, and technology in new and more effective ways.
As CLDs become increasingly entwined in their organizations’ business operations, choosing the right technologies, making data actionable, and working with the best partners will be incredibly important. Together, these three strategies hold the keys to legal operations teams sitting at the heads of their respective management tables.